March 24, 2006
By Indo Asian News Service
Faridabad (Haryana), March 24 (IANS) Around 60 victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, on a foot march to New Delhi to meet the prime minister, said Friday they were not in a ‘mood to compromise’ and wanted a life of dignity.
CNN interview Shehzadi and the other padyatris.
The victims of the 1984 industrial tragedy started their 800-km march from Bhopal to the Indian capital on Feb 20 and have crossed almost 775 km. They are to reach New Delhi Saturday.
‘We have been suffering for the past 21 years. We have taken on the arduous task of reaching Delhi by foot and putting our demand in front of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,’ said Ram Kishan, a 60-year-old survivor.
‘It’s our final attempt to meet the prime minister and we are not in a mood to compromise. Give us employment, medical facility and a life of dignity,’ Kishan told IANS.
The victims, including those born after the disaster, Friday held a rally here.
The marchers will be joined in New Delhi on Saturday by around 400 members of the families of survivors of the tragedy, which killed an estimated 20,000 people and maimed several thousands for life.
Rashida, who lost her husband in the leak of poisonous methyl iso cyanate gas from the Union Carbide plant on Dec 2-3, 1984, said: ‘Those responsible for causing the contamination and suffering in Bhopal should ensure the clean up of the area.
‘They are criminals and our government should ensure that Warren Anderson, the then chief executive officer of Union Carbide, and other officials are punished.’
Satinath Sarangi, a green activist who runs a clinic for the victims, said: ‘Twenty one years is enough. The government, especially the prime minister, should look after the welfare of the people and give less attention to the multinationals. Our demand for clean water, health, livelihood and social security are fundamental rights, which need to be safeguarded.’
‘People of Bhopal are determined to fight their cause and live a life of dignity,’ said Sarangi.
Suroopa Mukherjee, of We for Bhopal, a group of professors and students working for the victims, said that in New Delhi the victims would put forth several demands before the prime minister and other political leaders.
The demands include, clean drinking water, cleaning up of the dumped toxic wastes that Union Carbide left behind, punishment for Warren Anderson and his colleagues, setting up of a national commission for the victims and declaring Dec 3 as a national remembrance day.
‘Besides, there should be no business with Dow Chemicals, the company that took over Union Carbide in 2001, till it cleans up the site,’ said Mukherjee, who teaches at Delhi’s Hindu College.
‘We are yet to get time from the prime minister, but have decided not to return to Bhopal before meeting him. He has to listen to our demand and stretch a hand of hope for people like us,’ said Champa Devi, 53.
‘We don’t want another Bhopal to happen in India.’
Copyright Indo-Asian News Service